The Cleveland Browns opened the NFL preseason with a 21-16 win over the New York Jets on Thursday in Canton, Ohio. Here’s what you need to know:
- The game largely didn’t feature expected regular-season starters for either team, with new Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Browns QB Deshaun Watson on the sidelines.
- Instead, backup Zach Wilson started for New York, going 3-for-5 passing with 65 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
- Quarterback Kellen Mond started for the Browns, throwing for 92 yards with one touchdown and one interception, before rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson entered, throwing for one TD and no interceptions.
- The matchup was briefly delayed at the start of the fourth quarter when the lights went out at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
The Athletic’s instant analysis:
Work to do in Cleveland
The Browns just wanted out of here, and they played like it for most of the first half. Their summer focus is on installing their new defense and getting Watson more comfortable with the offense, and Thursday was almost exclusively for backups. The Browns were understandably sloppy early and dug themselves a two-score hole after wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, who’s probably on his last chance to stick, lost a fumble that the Jets rather easily and quickly turned into a touchdown. Running backs John Kelly and Demetric Felton are likely on the wrong side of the bubble, but each scored a touchdown — and they’re both auditioning for other teams, too. The Browns clearly have work to do back in their own camp and are anxious to get back to it. — Jackson
Thompson-Robinson’s impressive outing
Thompson-Robinson was impressive in leading a second-half comeback. The Browns drafted Thompson-Robinson in the fifth round with the hope that he might become their long-term backup, and though it’s too early for conclusions, he continued his impressive summer. Thompson-Robinson led two scoring drives, ran for 36 yards and completed 8 of 11 passes for 82 yards. Mond started the game for the Browns because he has more experience in the system, but the rookie probably earned the start the next time the Browns’ backups are slated to play a full game on Aug. 17 in Philadelphia. — Jackson
How did Wilson look?
Wilson had his usual ups and downs — but there were enough positives to be encouraged that, perhaps, he’s making progress from last season’s disaster. There was no better moment for Wilson on Thursday night than on his 57-yard completion to Malik Taylor, a simple, quick read of the play where he saw Taylor getting open and launched it to him for a big gain. He quickly followed that up with an inaccurate throw to Xavier Gipson and, later, a pass that was batted down at the line of scrimmage. He also slipped on an attempted scramble in the first quarter. So it clearly wasn’t perfect — but he has to start somewhere, and this was better than anything he did in 2022. — Rosenblatt
New York’s running back room
Rookie running back Israel Abanikanda is pushing for a role in what will be a crowded running back room when Breece Hall returns from his knee injury. Abanikanda was having an up-and-down camp and was clearly behind Zonovan Knight and Michael Carter in the pecking order. But he at least helped himself Thursday, especially on his impressive 10-yard touchdown run where he got around the corner and ran past a few defenders for the score. He clearly has more explosiveness than the other Jets running backs (not named Hall). He only finished with 26 yards on nine carries, but the touchdown was a positive step. — Rosenblatt
(Photo: Frank Jansky / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)